Millions of people embrace unique lifestyles and dietary choices, whether it’s a matter of health, politics, or a number of other reasons. Vegetarians and vegans are on the rise each year, and as more folks move to plant-based living, they need some key questions answered.
One type of food that sparks debate in these circles is caviar: salted sturgeon roe. We might instinctively put caviar in the carnivore category, but is it possible for vegetarians and vegans to enjoy this prestigious ingredient?
Let’s cover the different ways that we can view caviar consumption from the perspectives of vegetarians and vegans and make sense of this dilemma. That way, you have a complete understanding of the issue and can make an informed decision to match your beliefs.
Types of Vegetarians and Vegans
There are many belief systems under the broader umbrella of the plant-based lifestyle. Everyone has a unique view on how caviar fits into their philosophy.
Here are a few different perspectives to consider when thinking about caviar and plant-based living:
Flexible Vegetarian Diets
For some people, being vegetarian simply means avoiding eating meat, which gives them a flexible diet that can include things like eggs and even some seafood.
You may also hear terms like “pescatarian” or “lacto-ovo” vegetarian to describe styles of eating that exclude certain products based on the environmental impact or just dietary restrictions for health purposes.
With this loose definition of vegetarianism, you may indeed find people who enjoy caviar on occasion and still adhere to the plant-based diet more generally.
Those who take plant-based living more seriously have stricter rules about the types of animal products they use and consume.
Many vegetarians will say that they avoid eating any food that necessitates the death of an animal, while others are okay with products that come about naturally without harming animals during the production process.
Things get fuzzy when trying to make sense of this part of vegetarianism, but you’ll find that in general, people following more strict plant-based diets avoid caviar altogether.
Vegan Diet and Lifestyle
If you meet a vegan, we suggest you avoid bringing up the subject of caviar entirely.
That’s because the vegan code of ethics states that no animal products can be used or eaten, even if they are byproducts of natural processes like when bees make honey or chickens lay eggs.
We’ll talk about a few caviar alternatives that may be suitable for vegans in a bit, but we recommend you play it safe and keep the caviar in its tin in the fridge when your vegan friends stop by.
Sustainable Caviar Trends
Like so many aspects of consumer culture, the emphasis on sustainability has made its way to the world of caviar, and it could not have come at a better time.
The following trends may not compel vegetarians or vegans to reverse their opinions on caviar, but they are certainly a good sign for things to come in the industry and the health of global ecosystems overall.
Conservation and Protection
Regulations on sturgeon fishing and caviar production have been widespread in recent years.
Most notably, these policies have been applied in regions such as the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, where native populations of these fish have been decimated after centuries of aggressive overfishing.
We have also seen regulations on how caviar can be shipped overseas, depending on the region and sturgeon population at the time.
For instance, in the United States, obtaining genuine Beluga caviar is next to impossible, so other types of premium caviar are a more economical and safe option.
At large, conservation efforts and related policies have been a plus for the protection of sturgeon and the sustainability of caviar industries around the world, which is good news to any vegetarian or vegan.
Roe Extraction Methods
Sturgeon roe has traditionally been obtained by means of killing a mature female sturgeon and extracting her eggs before cleaning and salting them.
But the plant-based crowd will be happy to hear that more caviar producers are figuring out ways to produce caviar with a “no-kill” methodology, saving the life of the sturgeon and allowing her to swim away safely.
This might only be a small portion of caviar producers, and there are also questions raised about the ethics of fish farming, but this is a step in the right direction in terms of caviar sustainability at large.
As overfishing proved destructive to the sturgeon population and the caviar industry, more sustainable approaches to aquaculture have been introduced in recent years.
Not only are these farms better for the environment with lower energy requirements, but sturgeon are also treated more humanely and given an ecosystem that allows them to thrive.
Regardless of whether you ascribe to a plant-based philosophy, you should take these factors into consideration when shopping for your next shipment of caviar.
Vegetarian and Vegan Caviar Alternatives
If authentic sturgeon caviar is a no-go for you or a plant-based friend, we’ve got some tasty alternatives that don’t break any vegetarian or vegan rules.
One of the most sustainable plants on the planet is seaweed, and we don’t even notice the massive natural abundance of these organisms in the ocean.
Interestingly, many seaweeds are perfectly suited for producing gelatinous little pearls that pack flavor and nutrients, looking just like caviar with the proper coloring.
With a bit of molecular gastronomy under your belt, you can produce fruit caviar with everything from watermelon and mango to citruses like lemon and orange.
The process is not intuitive, and it takes some time to master, but once you get it right, you’ve got a limitless supply of low-cost fruit caviar that makes for a wonderful garnish night and day.
The plump, spherical shape of Israeli couscous makes it a great plant-based alternative to caviar, and you can prepare it with any mix of herbs and spices to achieve your ideal flavors.
Raise the Bar for Your Caviar
If the world’s greatest caviar is what you desire, vegans and vegetarians may be out of luck.
But for everyone else, now is the best time in history to find affordable, fantastic caviar shipped directly to your door.